“Kapitan Moy”: The Birthplace of Marikina Shoemaking

As you may probably know by now, (or if not…you’ll know anyway) one thing that has defined Marikina over the years is its shoemaking industry. And despite the challenges it has faced in recent years with the changing landscape of global trade being a key factor, it is an industry that has managed to survive as it strives to adapt to these changing times.

An achievement in contemporary Marikina shoemaking, manufacturing the world’s largest pair of shoes, which can be seen now at Marikina’s Riverbanks Mall

Indeed, the shoemaking industry has come a long way since it was introduced in this then sleepy rural town on the outskirts of Manila. And the growth would not have been possible without the efforts of one man, Don Laureano Guevara, popularly known as “Kapitan Moy.”

KAPITAN MOY

Guevara was born on July 4, 1851 to an “ilustrado” or middle class family. He was the fifth child of Jose Emiterio Guevara, a successful Manila businessman and Timotea Mariquita Andres. His father’s business was a thriving Escolta shop called La Industrial, a bazaar, printing press, lithography shop, and firearms dealer in one. With such a privileged upbringing, Guevara was able to study in Ateneo Municipal though it seemed he did not finish his studies. Instead, he was more inclined be involved in his father’s business, until his entrepreneurial spirit set him on a different path.

Laureano “Kapitan Moy” Guevara

That path began in 1887, a moment brought about by an “accident.” The story was Guevara’s European-made shoe got damaged but he did not wish to travel all the way to Manila to have his shoe fixed. (yup, at that time Marikina to Manila was considered that far) At that time, there was no one in Marikina who can repair shoes though there was a thriving industry then of making bakya or wooden clogs. So to get an idea how to fix the shoe, he disassembled the shoe and see how they would fit together. He had no experience in shoemaking but was determined enough to get it done. So he borrowed help from some blacksmiths in the area and patiently toiled in the work at his house until finally he was able to produce the first pair of shoes.

An exhibit at Marikina’s Shoe Museum which represents how shoemaking in Marikina was done in the old times

This achievement inspired others to embark in the shoemaking industry, and with Guevara’s support, the shoemaking industry in Marikina was born. The ground floor of his house became a makeshift shoe factory, as with many other houses in the town who has embraced shoemaking as well. Even after he died on December 30, 1891, the shoemaking industry of Marikina continued to grow and evolve, a longlasting legacy he left behind as the father of the Marikina shoemaking industry.

A monument of Kapitan Moy and a shoemaker outside his old residence, honoring his role as the “father of the Marikina shoemaking industry”

THE KAPITAN MOY RESIDENCE

After Guevara’s death, his house which also served as the first shoe factory of Marikina was used for a variety of purposes over the years. It was first bought and used as a shelter home for the town’s homeless by the turn of the 20th century, then became a courthouse, a school, and, during the Japanese occupation, headquarters of the Japanese Imperial Army there for a time.

Eventually, the local government of Marikina bought the property and converted the house into a mixed use development. The ground floor which used to be where the shoes were manufactured is now home to two restaurants, as well as a space reserved for special dining events.. One of them is the Cafe Kapitan, the more “upper-scale” restaurant.

The other is the more “affordable” of the twin restaurants, aptly named Cocina Kambal.

The upper floor of the house now serves as an events venue with its wide space and large windows in almost every corner, providing some natural lighting during daytime.

Today, the old house of Kapitan Moy stands as a cherished landmark where Marikina as we know it today began, a testament to the skill and entrepreneurial spirit of the Filipino that can stand shoulder to shoulder with the rest of the world.

 

Acknowledgements as well to Wikipedia and Artes delas Filipinas

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